In an unusual move, Contra Costa Health Services employees have begun to advise low-income families on the best way to manage their finances. The innovative approach, dubbed BEST, is needed, health leaders say, to tackle the East Bay's widespread health inequities.
In the program's first phase, county health employees who visit pregnant women and young mothers in their homes will assist them with their financial concerns and help them apply for public benefits, repair their credit ratings, open checking or savings accounts, and use prepaid debit cards.
So what does this have to do with health?
"Improving families' financial status will increase their access to health care, improve their housing situations, offer opportunities to live in safer and healthier neighborhoods, increase food security, and enhance other protective social and environmental factors," a county report states.
Contra Costa is tackling health inequities on several fronts, often by partnering with community organizations, notes Concepcion James, manager of the county's Reducing Health Disparities unit. Programs include: